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Bible Commentaries
1 Kings 4

Whedon's Commentary on the BibleWhedon's Commentary

Verse 1

1. King over all Israel This was true of Solomon during his whole reign, but could be said of no other. David for seven years ruled but a single tribe, and at the beginning of the reign of Solomon’s successor the kingdom was rent asunder by the revolt of the ten tribes.

Verses 1-19

SOLOMON’S OFFICIALS, 1 Kings 4:1-19.

The design of the sacred writer in introducing this list of Solomon’s chief officers seems to have been both to show the constitution of the kingdom and to indicate its power and glory. It is not likely that all these officers were appointed at the very beginning of Solomon’s reign, and continued without the occurrence of a death or change among them during the whole forty years of his reign. But this list probably contains the names of the most distinguished officers which during the whole reign of Solomon, or at least during its most flourishing period, helped to add lustre and dignity to his administration.

Verse 2

2. Princes Hebrew, the Sarim, Superior officers; high state-dignitaries, in distinction from the prefects, or lesser officers mentioned below, 1 Kings 4:7-19.

Azariah the son of Zadok the priest The word כהן , here rendered priest, but in verse v principal officer, occurs three times in this list of officers, and if we adopt the present punctuation of the Hebrew, Septuagint, and English texts, and explain with Keil, Bahr, and others, that כהן here means a regent, or some privy counsellor of the king, then we have the word used in the space of four verses in three different senses. That כהן means an intimate counsellor of the king in 1 Kings 4:5 and in 2 Samuel 8:18, is admitted in our notes; but if it means the same thing here, and defines the office of Azariah to be identical with that of Zabud the son of Nathan, why in the world are not these two persons holding the same office placed together in the list? Certainly the relative position of these two names in the record most naturally indicates that Azariah and Zabud did not hold the same office. It seems better, therefore, to adopt the punctuation of the Vulgate, and construe Azariah with the first two names of 1 Kings 4:3, and כהן , the priest, in apposition with Zadok. Thus, connecting 1 Kings 4:2-3, we read, “Azariah the son of Zadok the priest, Elihoreph and Ahiah, the sons of Shisha, scribes.”

Verse 3

3. Scribes… recorder On these words see notes at 2 Samuel 8:16-17. Solomon had different scribes, but the same recorder as his father David. Shisha was probably the same as Seraiah; (compare the reading in 1 Chronicles 18:16;) so that his sons succeeded him in the office of scribe. See note on 2 Samuel 20:25.

Verse 4

4. Benaiah… over the host In the list of the warlike David’s officers the captain of the host stands first, but under the peaceful reign of Solomon he stands in the third place.

Zadok and Abiathar were the priests Abiathar, though deposed by Solomon himself, (1 Kings 2:27,) ever held his priestly dignity and character, so that when he no longer executed the duties of his office his name remained on the official list.

Verse 5

5. Son of Nathan This Nathan may have been either the prophet or son of David mentioned 2 Samuel 5:14.

Over the officers That is, the twelve officers mentioned in 1 Kings 4:7. So he was a sort of commissary-general for the whole kingdom.

Principal officer Here the word כהן , which usually means priest, manifestly has a different signification. By comparing 2 Samuel 8:18 with 1 Chronicles 18:17, we infer that it means a high officer whom the king treats as his intimate counsellor and confidential adviser. David chose his own sons for this office; and where is the monarch or chieftain who has not had some person or persons to serve him in this capacity? During his short triumph Absalom virtually set Ahithophel and Hushai in this office. That the king always, or even usually, followed the counsels of this officer is not to be supposed.

His work was to suggest, not to adopt or decide, plans for his sovereign. He is further described as being the king’s friend that is, his personal confidant and favourite.

Verse 6

6. Ahishar was over the household Overseer of the royal palace and family; the king’s chamberlain.

Adoniram… over the tribute The same person who held this office during the later years of David’s reign. See note on 2 Samuel 20:24. The word מס , here rendered tribute, is translated, levy in 1 Kings 5:13-14, and this latter seems to be the true meaning. Adoniram had charge of the multitudes of men that were impressed out of all Israel to labour on the public works, and probably his general superintendency extended also over the thousands of foreign bondslaves that bare burdens, etc. See 1 Kings 5:15; 2 Chronicles 2:17; 2 Chronicles 18:7.

Twelve officers נצבים , prefects. Collectors of the royal revenues, which consisted not in money, but in the products of the land.

Thus were furnished provisions for the king’s household.

Each man his month Probably Azariah the son of Nathan, who was over these twelve officers, (1 Kings 4:5,) notified each of them which month he would be required to provide for the king. According to Herodotus (i, 192) the kingdom of Persia was divided into districts, each one of which supplied the great king and his army with provisions for a given portion of the year.

Verse 8

8. The son of Hur It is noticeable that the names of the fathers of these officers are given in each case, and in five cases the proper names of the officers themselves are not given at all. The margin, which follows the Vulgate, renders these five as proper names Ben-hur, Ben-dekar, etc.; but it is more likely that the proper names of these five officers, if ever given, have fallen out of the text by the carelessness of transcribers.

Mount Ephraim The hill country in the territory of the tribe of Ephraim. See note on Judges 17:1.

Verse 9

9. Makaz… Shaalbim Places apparently in the tribe of Dan, but now unknown.

Beth-shemesh See on Joshua 15:10, and 1 Samuel 6:9.

Elon-bethhanan Site unknown, but probably the same as Elon. Joshua 19:43.

Verse 10

10. Aruboth… Socoh… Hepher Sites now unknown.

Verse 11

11. All the region of Dor This was on the coast of the Mediterranean near Mount Carmel. See on Joshua 11:2.

Verse 12

12. Taanach and Megiddo In the great plain of Esdraelon. See on Joshua 12:21; Judges 5:19.

Beth-shean The modern Beisan, between Mount Gilboa and the Jordan. See Joshua 17:11.

Zartanah This place has not been identified.

Beneath Jezreel The city of Jezreel, which gave its name to the whole neighbouring valley, was on the site of the modern Zerin, near the western end of Mount Gilboa. See on Joshua 19:18. Beneath Jezreel indicates that Beth-shean and its neighbouring towns lay lower than Jezreel, a fact confirmed by Robinson: “Zerin lies comparatively high, and commands a wide and noble view, extending down the broad low valley on the east to Beisan. We could here see the acropolis of Beisan lying much lower than Zerin; and from every account that place appears to be situated not far above the level of the Jordan valley.”

Abel-meholah Perhaps the modern Khurbet-esh-Shuk, at the eastern end of Mount Gilboa.

Jokneam The Hebrew is here Jok-meam, but probably a later corruption of Jokneam, called in Joshua 12:22, Jokneam of Carmel, and identified by Dr. Robinson with the modern Tell Kaimon, which holds a conspicuous position on the Carmel range, “commanding the main pass from the western portion of Esdraelon to the more southern plain.” Baana’s district thus took in the great valley of Jezreel, and extended from Bethshean on the east to Jokneam on the west.

Verse 13

13. Son of Geber Perhaps the same Geber mentioned 1 Kings 4:19.

Ramoth-gilead One of the chief cities on the east side of the Jordan, in the tribe of Gad, allotted to the Levites and appointed a city of refuge. Supposed by many to have been at the modern es-Salt, just south of Mount Gilead. See on Deuteronomy 4:43; Joshua 13:26; and Judges 10:17.

Jair the son of Manasseh See on Numbers 32:41.

Argob The region north of Mount Gilead, and east and southeast of the sea of Galilee. See on Deuteronomy 3:4. “The Bedouins familiarly speak of this whole district as Arkoob or Argoob. Thus they call the mountain on which Urn Keis stands Argoob Um Keis; and although this word is applied to any rough, mountainous country, I have nowhere else heard it thus used in common conversation; and since the kingdom or district of Argob was in this immediate neighbourhood, I think it nearly certain that we have the identical name still preserved among these primitive inhabitants.” Thomson.

Bashan The vast region, of which Argob was but a part, extending from Mount Hermon in the north to the Jabbok on the south, and from the Jordan eastward to the desert. See on Deuteronomy 3:3.

Threescore great cities with walls and brazen bars “Such a statement seems all but incredible. It would not stand the arithmetic of Bishop Colenso for a moment. But with my own eyes I have seen that it is literally true. The cities are there to this day. Some of them retain the ancient names recorded in the Bible. Bashan is literally crowded with towns and large villages, and though the vast majority of them are deserted, they are not ruined. Many of the houses in the ancient cities of Bashan are perfect, as if only finished yesterday. The walls are sound, the roofs unbroken, the doors, and even the window shutters, in their places. The walls are from five to eight feet thick, built of large squared blocks of basalt; the roofs are formed of slabs of the same material, hewn like planks, and reaching from wall to wall; the very doors and win-dew shutters are of stone, hung upon pivots projecting above and below. Some of these ancient cities have from two to five hundred houses still perfect, but not a man to dwell in them. On one occasion, from the battlements of the castle of Salcah, I counted some thirty towns and villages, dotting the surface of the vast plain, many of them almost as perfect as when they were built, and yet for more than five centuries there has not been a single inhabitant in one of them.” PORTER, Giant Cities of Bashan.

Verse 14

14. Mahanaim The place beyond the Jordan where Jacob met the angels, and where Ishbosheth, the son of Saul, reigned two years. Its modern name is Mahneh. See on 2 Samuel 2:8, and Genesis 32:2.

Verse 15

15. Naphtali For notice of the territory of this tribe, see at Joshua 19:32-39.

Verse 16

16. Hushai Perhaps the friend of David mentioned in 2 Samuel 15:32.

Asher See at Joshua 19:24-31.

Aloth or Baaloth, as Septuagint and Vulgate read the word. It is now unknown.

Verse 17

17. In Issachar See at Joshua 19:17-23.

Verse 18

18. Benjamin See at Joshua 18:11-28.

Verse 19

19. The country of Gilead The vast mountainous tract east of the Jordan, and south of Bashan. Here it is spoken of as including at least a part of Bashan. See on Deuteronomy 3:13, and references. But the whole of Gilead was not under this Geber. His son and Ahinadab had their districts also in Gilead, (1 Kings 4:13-14;) but with that exception, the son of Uri was the only officer in all this vast tract of country, an evidence of the profound peace throughout Solomon’s dominions.

Verse 20


20. The statements of this verse are calculated to enhance in the mind of the reader the glory of Solomon’s reign. “The general tone of the records of his reign is that of jubilant delight, as though it were indeed a golden day following on the iron and brazen age of the warlike David.” Stanley.

As the sand Thus fulfilling the promise made to Abraham. See marginal references.

Eating… drinking… making merry Evidences of a happy, peaceful, and prosperous administration.

Verse 21

21. The river The great Euphrates, far to the east. Compare Genesis 15:18.

Land of the Philistines On the Mediterranean coast to the west of Judea.

Border of Egypt At the south. Within these limits there were now many kingdoms.

Brought presents, and served Solomon These subject kingdoms doubtless preserved their separate organization and nationality, as when independent, but were ever ready both to contribute to the annual revenues of Solomon, and also to furnish, when occasion offered, their quota of men for any public service. Thus, too, the fame of Solomon became registered in the records of the kings of the East. Ezra 4:20.

Verse 22

22. Thirty measures of fine flour Or thirty cors, about three hundred and forty bushels.

Threescore measures of meal About seven hundred bushels.

Verse 23

23. Twenty oxen out of the pastures Such as had been taken immediately from the field, in distinction from such as had been stallfed. It is said that one hundred oxen were daily slaughtered for the kings of Persia; and Tavernier relates that as many as five hundred sheep and lambs were daily consumed at the court of the Sultan.

Harts… roebucks… fallow deer Various species of the genus cervus, or deer family. See Deuteronomy 12:15; Deuteronomy 14:5.

Fatted fowl Domesticated poultry.

Verse 24

24. On this side the river Literally, beyond the river. The phrase designates the country west of the Euphrates; and in the time of our author it had already come to be used in this fixed geographical sense. Compare the phrase beyond Jordan, Joshua 1:14, note. So, says Rawlinson, “a Gaul, writing at Narbo or Lugdunum under the early Roman empire, must have spoken of his own country as Gallia transalpina.” Compare Ezra 4:10, note.

Tiphsah Formerly a large and important city on the western bank of the Euphrates, more than three hundred miles above Babylon; the Thapsacus of the Greeks and Romans, and the modern Suriyeh. Here was the great crossing place for the armies or caravans, and perhaps Solomon’s occupation of the place was for the purpose of establishing commercial intercourse with Central Asia. “A paved causeway is visible on either side of the river at Suriyeh, and a long line of mounds may be traced, disposed, something like those of Nineveh, in the form of an irregular parallelogram. These mounds probably mark the site of the ancient city.” G. Rawlinson.

Azzah The same as Gaza, and a more correct form of anglicising the Hebrew name. On Gaza, the chief capital of the Philistines, see at Genesis 10:19, and Judges 16:1.

Over all the kings Many petty kings dwelt in this territory. Compare note on Judges 1:7.

Verse 25

25. Dwelt safely In security and confidence, as opposed to continuous alarms from war or civil discord.

Every man under his vine and under his fig tree A picture of the utmost national and domestic tranquillity, happiness, and comfort; and used by the prophets to portray the peace and happiness of Messiah’s day. Compare marginal references.

From Dan even to Beersheba The common designation of the whole extent of the land from north to south. See at Judges 20:1.

Verse 26

26. Forty thousand stalls of horses Most interpreters have regarded this as a corruption in the text, and have thought to emend it by substituting the reading of 2 Chronicles 9:25, four thousand. But this is a doubtful emendation. True, 40,000 seems a very large number, and may be an error; but 4,000 seems too small a number to require 12,000 horsemen. Then the reading in Chronicles is somewhat different from this. There it says he had 4,000 stalls for horses and chariots, which may mean that each stall that contained a chariot might also have several horses. But while at this late day it may be impossible to settle this question of numbers, it is still clear that Solomon multiplied horses in Israel, and thereby transgressed the law prescribed for kings in Deuteronomy 17:16.

Twelve thousand horsemen The word פרשׁים , here and often elsewhere rendered horsemen, is also used in the sense of steeds; riding horses. It usually means cavalry, including both horse and rider.

Verse 27

27. Those officers That is, the officers named in 1 Kings 4:7-19.

Verse 28

28. Dromedaries The dromedary differs from the camel in being of a finer and more elegant form, having one hump on the back instead of two, and in being trained for greater speed. But the Hebrew word רכשׁ means a swift-courser, or race-horse, and in Micah 1:13, is rendered swift-beast, one that was used with the chariot, and so could hardly be the dromedary. In Esther 8:10; Esther 8:14, it is rendered mule, but swift-courser would be better.

Where the officers were The Septuagint and Vulgate read, where the king was. But it is still better simply to supply they, referring to the horses and coursers. The barley and straw were brought where the horses were kept by those who had this matter in charge, every man according to his charge כמשׁפשׂו , literally, according to his judgment; that is, according to the amount which it was decided each should bring.

Verse 29

29. Largeness of heart The heart, in Scripture, is the innermost center of man’s natural condition and life. It is the seat of desires, of love, of hatred. It thinks, perceives, understands, deliberates, judges; and thus becomes the storehouse of all that is seen, heard of, or experienced. Compare Luke 1:66 and references. So Solomon became a man of profound thought, of deep understanding, with vast powers of judgment, and a broad and diversified experience.

As the sand A proverbial expression denoting the multiplicity and fulness of his knowledge and wisdom.

Verse 30

30. The east country A term used indiscriminately of all the vast region to the east, northeast, and southeast of Palestine, including Chaldea and Arabia. This East was noted for its wisdom, especially Chaldea for attainments in astronomy and astrology, and the farther East, with Arabia, for expressing thought and sage counsel in proverbs.

Wisdom of Egypt Another land still more distinguished for wisdom. Compare Isaiah 19:11; Acts 7:22. The Egyptians were distinguished for their knowledge of plants and animals, and their skill in geometry, arithmetic, astronomy, and other sciences. Herodotus speaks of them as “the wisest of men.”

Verse 31

31. Ethan… Heman… Chalcol… Darda These men were well known and distinguished for wisdom in Solomon’s time, but to what age they belonged, and to what nation, is by no means clear. They would seem to be identical with the sons of Zerah mentioned in 1 Chronicles 2:6. The eighty-ninth Psalm is ascribed to Ethan, the Ezrahite.

Sons of Mahol This seems to oppose the supposition that these wise men are identical with the names of 1 Chronicles 2:6; but מהול , mahol, often elsewhere means a dance, and some have conjectured that the meaning here is, sons of the dance.

Verse 32

32. He spake three thousand proverbs He seems to have first established among the Hebrews this species of gnomic didactic poetry. Of these three thousand proverbs a very valuable though a comparatively small portion remains in the Book of Proverbs, and, perhaps, also in Ecclesiastes. The remark that he spake these proverbs may imply that they were not all written or actually recorded, and so, from being preserved only by oral tradition, they either became gradually lost, or their authorship became uncertain.

His songs were a thousand and five Being the son of the greatest of human lyrists, the sweet psalmist of Israel, he naturally inherited the gift of poetry and song. Of these thousand and five songs there now remain but the seventy-second and one hundred and twenty-seventh Psalms and the Canticles, though the authorship of the latter is a controverted question. But though most of the Proverbs and Songs of Solomon are lost to us, their silent influences, flowing through unseen channels, may have greatly affected both the ancient and modern literature of the East, and may still be studied in the apocryphal books of Ecclesiasticus and the Wisdom of Solomon.

Verse 33

33. He spake of trees… beasts… fowl… creeping things… fishes He enjoyed rare opportunities for becoming familiar with the various species of both the animal and vegetable creation. His extended commerce with all nations brought to him specimens of all rare trees, plants, and animals. Cedars he multiplied in his own land like sycamores; (1 Kings 10:27;) his navies and caravans supplied him apes and peacocks, horses and mules, and spices. 1 Kings 10:22; 1 Kings 10:25. Compare Song of Solomon 4:13-14. That he composed and wrote scientific treatises on botany and natural history, as many commentators have assumed, is not necessarily the meaning of this verse. In the concluding chapters of Job, and in many of the Psalms and Proverbs, we find many wise sayings and parabolic allusions based on the wisdom of God as displayed in the creation; and it seems more natural, on the whole, to suppose Solomon’s sayings about trees, etc., to have been of this character. And so Irenaeus observes that Solomon “expounded psychologically the wisdom of God which is manifest in creation.” So also Josephus: “He spake a parable upon every sort of tree, from the hyssop to the cedar; and in like manner, also, about beasts, and about all sorts of living creatures, whether upon the earth, or in the seas, or in the air; for he was not unacquainted with any of their natures, nor omitted inquiries about them, but described them all like a philosopher, and demonstrated his exquisite knowledge of their several properties.” And so his sayings on these subjects were probably more of the character of natural theology than of natural science. No wonder that his fame went through all lands, and attracted, among others, the queen of Sheba to his court. Chapter 10.

Bibliographical Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on 1 Kings 4". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/whe/1-kings-4.html. 1874-1909.
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